CTF Europe

Controlled Traffic Farming across Europe

Benefits of CTF

There are many benefits associated with CTF and they all help to deliver the two most important factors in farming operations - INCREASED PROFIT and IMPROVED SUSTAINABILITY

These are delivered by improving soil health, which in turn lowers costs and increases crop returns but it also results in improved environmental conditions.

Lower costs and increased returns are brought about by

Lower energy for cultivation. This happens because the soil has not been squashed down by wheels and it therefore lifts up more easily. It also means that the soil is in a more natural state and easily breaks down into a seedbed (see below). In many cases no cultivation at all is needed to create a seedbed. On average, a 50% saving in fuel per tonne of crop harvested is likely.

  trafficked soil non-trafficked soil 
The non-trafficked soil is more friable and is easily formed into a seedbed. (Photo: Silsoe Research Institute)

Lower energy for driving over the soil. The wheels of machines are always running on compact traffic lanes – this minimises rolling resistance and makes field access easier.

Lower machinery investment.
With shallower, less intensive and lower energy demanding tillage operations, smaller tractors and machines can be used. CTF farmers find they can buy smaller tractors than they had before.

Better seedbeds. With no compaction damage, less cloddy seedbeds can easily be produced with very little loss of moisture. These benefits result in rapid and even germination of the crop. 

Conventionally planted spring oats Non-trafficked spring oats
These plots were sown on the same day and photographed subsequently on the same day. (Photo: Silsoe Research Institute)

Use of minimum and zero till systems without the inherent problem of surface compaction (in the top 10 cm). Most conventional systems suffer from slow initial crop growth due to poor topsoil structure – often made worse by fitting low pressure tyres because a larger area is compacted on each pass. CTF eliminates the problem of poor crop growth due to compaction and significantly reduces the problem of water run-off. 

The amount of compaction that can build up, even under these low intensity traffic systems, is graphically illustrated in this video clip of prising out soil with a fork. 

These two fields on a Hanslope clay soil are adjacent to each other and had the same 20 cm deep ploughing history until September 2004 when both were converted to no till. However, one was put into controlled traffic, the other continued in random traffic for harvest and sowing and tramlines for chemical applications. Grain trailers are confined to the headlands in both fields. 

This high topsoil strength reflects the research carried out by Radford et al (Soil & Tillage Research, 97 (2007) 249-255) who found that it took at least 3 years for a Vertisol to recover from compaction, even in the top 100 mm (4 inches) of the profile. In a practical system such as the one described here, it is almost certain that the soil will have been re-compacted by the harvester or the drill within 3 years

Improved crop yields. Research and practice have shown that yields from non-trafficked soil are 9-16% greater than where wheel compaction is present. In areas of low rainfall, additional cropping may be possible because more water makes its way into the profile.

Improved soil structure. Not only does better structure allow seedbeds to be created with very little input, it also improves the performance of the soil.

Improved field efficiency. Because the whole of the cropped area is precisely marked out, there is little chance of under- or overlap. Many wide cultivation tools are often working with up to 0.5 m overlap. With an 8 m cultivator, this means that over 6% of energy and time are wasted.

More reliable field access. Well managed wheelways mean that operations can often go ahead sooner or for longer periods.

Increased potential and accuracy for global positioning systems. This arises partly because the fixed grid system can be used as a fall-back when signals are lost (e.g. which direction did the machine go in when it was last in this position in the field?), partly because the permanent wheelways should provide a more stable working environment and finally because the more amenable soil conditions and shallower working are less likely to shift the machine off course.

UK: Tim Chamen
+44 7714 206 048

Netherlands: Sander Bernaerts

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